I have gone back and forth with myself for a while over whether or not to put this post out into the world. And after careful consideration, I feel confident in the decision to do so. There are personal reasons, of course. But also because much of what I’ve written about Kara so far has highlighted her boldness, independence, intelligence, fearlessness, edginess, and boundless desire to help those most in need. And well, also her occasional cantankerousness. But as with anyone, there are so many more layers.
Sometimes those close to her were gifted with doodles or notes that were quirky, artistic, and humorous. Her notes to me, which I regularly found on the kitchen counter or on my nightstand when I woke, would contain those same attributes, but also incorporate her intimate relationship side which was incredibly softhearted, caring, and wildly romantic.
They would run the gamut from detailing a wonderful outing we just had, her being happy I was home from a work trip, or letting me know that the coffee maker was ready for action. She also dedicated a series of drawings expressing her sympathy for my post-vasectomy tenderness. Then, without flinching, could turn on a dime and leave a series of doodles that espoused the heights of hopefulness, happiness, and the greatest of expectations for our lives together or the world at large. Traits she didn’t necessarily exude to those that only knew her on a surface level.
These notes inspired me, made me laugh, and left me speechless with such regularity that they could’ve become normal. But I knew better. These weren’t normal. This woman was so readily able to convey her love for me, gratitude for us, and astonishing devotion for the universe we built together and for each other, that my heart melted into a warm puddle so many times over, that it has long since lost the ability to recongeal.
It’s interesting in a way, I suppose. I’m technically kind of a minimalist. I don’t keep many things, including objects of sentimental value. Before the fire, I had some photo albums from family members. I had a baseball I caught at a game, a world series ticket, and a set of drumsticks that were all valuable to me. And I had her notes. I kept every note or doodle she had ever left me, no matter how wondrous or seemingly insignificant. These were the only things in my life, that I ever kept every single one of.
In an ongoing theme, the only recoverable item I was able to salvage from the room where I kept my things was the top drawer from that nightstand, where her notes lived. None of my books, baseballs, or clothes survived the fire. Just an externally charred drawer and its contents. A few on the surface suffered some smoke and or water damage, but extraordinarily, all survived.
It took me a few months to do so, but I eventually photographed them all. It was an exceedingly difficult process because while most are funny or heartwarming, some are emotionally eviscerating. It required a lot of breaks But I felt an impending need to get that task done as soon as I was capable of doing so. Partly because of an instinctual urge to preserve the few things of real value on this planet that remained in my possession.
But also because I knew I wanted to attempt to use your love notes to me, as a way of producing a love letter for you. Though nowhere near as artistic or labor-intensive. Perhaps in saving, caring for, and carefully cataloging each of the thoughtfully etched instances of “I love you” that you left. And all of the, “I’m thinking of you in ways you may never realize” cartoons you carefully placed. I can show you, and anyone else who cares to take notice, that not only did I realize, but that every arrow, star, heart, shape, color, inference, word, and emotion you left upon each of those napkins and scratch pieces of paper, means the world to me. And they always will. Until, as you put so wonderfully in one of these notes, “We give our atoms back to the universe, and I spend my next life finding you again.”